The Glitter Band

TrackSingle / Album    
Angel FaceBell 1348
Just For YouBell 1368
Let's Get Together AgainBell 1383
Goodbye My LoveBell 1395
Game's UpRock 'n' Roll Dudes
The Tears I CriedBell 1416
Love In The SunBell 1437
Makes You BlindBell 1471
Look What You've Been MissingParis Match
Until The Next TimePolo 13

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The Glitter Band photo 2

The Glitter Band (l to r): John Springate (bass, vocals), Tony Leonard (drums), Gerry Shephard (lead guitar, vocals), Pete Phipps (drums, keyboards, vocals), Harvey Ellison (sax, keyboards, guitar, vocals), John Rossall (sax, trombone, vocals)

 

Contributor: Joyce Gibson

In 1974, when I was 10 years old, I bought my very first record with my own money. In the long gone Gloria’s Record Bar in East Kilbride, I chose Angel Face by the Glitter Band. I generally had terrible taste in music when I was a young child, favouring Donny Osmond and the Bay City Rollers, but I got my very first foray into a lifelong habit of buying records absolutely spot on.

I didn’t even like Gary Glitter all that much – his songs were okay but I far preferred watching his backing band on Top Of The Pops and from a very early age had a little crush on the saxophonist, Harvey Ellison.

In recent years the Glitter Band have been considered guilty by association for having had the temerity to start out backing the disgraced Gary Glitter. I find this terribly unfair as they were easily one of the best glam rock era groups and, unlike most of their peers, they wrote their own songs.

They were recently included in the BBC Four show Glam Rock At The BBC which reminded me how much I had loved them when I was young, and it was a rare opportunity to see them again on TV. It also inspired me to write this article.

They are one of the very few bands to start out backing a solo artist and go on to become successful in their own right – an obvious comparison would be the Shadows.

The story of the Glitter Band begins in the mid 1960s. John Rossall was the leader of the Boston Show Band who had worked in Germany with one Paul Raven, and Mike Leander, his manager/co-writer. The Bostons carried on after Raven jumped on the glam bandwagon and became Gary Glitter. However, Leander needed a group to back his new star on Top Of The Pops and for live shows. He called Rossall, who took him up on the offer, on the understanding that at some point his band would get to record their own material. Rossall brought with him guitarist Gerry Shephard, saxophonist Harvey Ellison, and bassist Ray Moxley, who was soon sacked for urinating in Glitter’s drink. He was replaced by John Springate. Drummers Pete Phipps and Tony Leonard eventually completed the line up.

Originally called The Glitter Men, only Rossall and Ellison played on Glitter’s first two records – every other instrument was played by Mike Leander. And Rossall has gone on record to say if Leander could play brass neither he nor Ellison would have featured either. The brass included trombone as well as sax.

Leander produced all of the Glitter Band’s albums. Dr. John was a great influence on him and this is where the tribal double drummer sound came from. The band did a great job replicating Leander’s sound live. Particular kudos should be paid to Gerry Shephard and the slide effect he used on his famous star guitar.

In 1974, Mike Leander reluctantly allowed the Glitter Band (as they were now known) to make a record as promised. Rossall and Shephard came up with Angel Face. It got the full Leander production treatment, bringing the brass section and double drum sound to the fore, adding in the distinctive “hey!” chant. It quickly reached No.4 in the charts, outselling Gary Glitter in the process. It’s a fantastic record which has really stood the test of time – definitely a glam rock classic.

The B-side, You Wouldn’t Leave Me Would You, a Springate/Shephard composition, carries on where Angel Face left off and the intro reminds me of a few punk and new wave tunes which followed just a few years later.

Angel Face was followed up by another Rossall and Shephard composition, Just For You, which also cracked the UK top 10. It had the distinctive glitter sound and while not quite as strong as Angel Face, it’s still a great glam record.

The Glitter Band released their debut LP, called Hey! (of course), later in 1974. Unfortunately, cover versions outweigh the much better original songs on the album. Their cover of The Exciters’ Tell Him’ (previously covered in the UK by Billie Davis) was actually pressed up as a single by their record company, but the band, who didn’t want to be known as a covers act, demanded they be destroyed. Shortly afterwards, bubblegum glam group and Bell Records label mates Hello recorded their own version of Tell Him using the Glitter Band’s arrangement and took it into the UK top ten.

Let’s Get Together Again was the next official Glitter Band single and was another chart hit. It again features the heavy Glitter sound and was another Rossall/Shephard composition. However, at the end of 1974 Rossall took leave of the band to follow a solo career which unfortunately didn’t result in any hit singles. However, his 1975 single, I Was Only Dreaming, is a great glam tune and it really should have been a hit.

Prior to leaving, Rossall featured with his bandmates in a plot free 1975 film, Never Too Young To Rock, which is only worth watching for their live performances and a couple of seconds of their painful acting, which is still better than most performances from the actual actors in the film.

The Glitter Band movie poster

With Rossall away, John Springate and Gerry Shephard took over leadership of the Glitter Band. Their next single, Goodbye My Love, was something of a departure from their earlier singles. A ballad, it was written by Shephard, and Springate sang lead. It became their biggest hit in early 1975, reaching No.2. It didn’t have the heavy brass sound of the previous hits but was still a distinctive Glitter Band record. It’s a strong pop song and was also covered by French singer Sheila (aka Sheila & B. Devotion) of Spacer fame.

The band’s second album, Rock ‘n’ Roll Dudes, followed later in 1975 and it consisted wholly of original material. Shephard and Springate were the main songwriters, but Phipps and Ellison also contributed songs. Producer Mike Leander kept the distinctive sound on many of the songs, but there is evidence of a slicker sound on a few of the tracks.

I’ve picked Game’s Up from this LP as it was also recorded by Hello and, although their version wasn’t a hit, it is considered a great glam tune. However, I think the Glitter Band version is far better. It was written by Springate, Shephard and Eddie Seago, who also ran the band’s management company. I’m convinced it would have been considered a Power Pop classic had it appeared just a few years later.

Things didn’t stand still in 1975. They had a top 10 hit with The Tears I Cried which eventually featured on their next LP. In August they had a top 20 summer hit with the non-album song, Love In The Sun. It’s not as well remembered today as it should be – it’s a great summer pop song with that distinctive stomping beat, but there are some Beach Boys inspired harmonies as well.

The band’s third album, Listen To The Band, followed at the end of 1975. As well as The Tears I Cried which kept to the Leander sound, it also included their first non-charting single, the ballad, Alone Again.

However, they had their final chart hit early in 1976 with the reggae disco-tinged People Like You, People Like Me and the instrumental, funky B-side, Makes You Blind, written by Shephard, Leander and Phipps; their only US success, becoming a bona fide club hit and also reaching the lower end of the US Hot 100. Who knew the Glitter Band could do disco?

Listen To The Band is musically ambitious compared to their previous albums, with the band trying to move away from the distinctive sound which made them famous, hoping to be taken more seriously. Where Have You Been is quite an epic Beatle-esque tune and although the arrangement is now a little dated, it’s still a decent effort. The funky Watch The Show is another Harvey Ellison composition and the only one which he sang lead on.

In 1976, they returned with Don’t Make Promises (You Can’t Keep) and started calling themselves The G Band in the hope of being taken more seriously. It was to no avail as the single failed to crack to the top 50. They were branching out towards a more soul and funk sound which was probably not the best move with punk bubbling under. The B-side of this single, the instrumental Tuna Biscuit deserves a mention as it’s the only track drummer Tony Leonard gets a songwriting credit on, together with Phipps and Ellison. It has a bit of a Starsky and Hutch theme tune vibe going on!

The G Band departed Bell Records for CBS and recorded an album called Paris Match, which despite being marketed with two different covers failed to do anything. The best track on it is Look What You’ve Been Missing which saw John Rossall return to songwriting duties with Gerry Shephard. Also included is a rather ill-advised cover of the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil – their first cover version since the Hey! days.

By 1977, the band had started to fall apart. Shephard and Springate recorded a single under the moniker Air Traffic Control, but it got lost among the punk frenzy. The band eventually announced they had broken up.

However, in 1981, they reconvened with a little heard single, Until The Next Time. Co-written by Shephard, Rossall and Eddie Seago, it’s a fantastic throwback to their distinctive sound. It got no airplay and failed to chart. It was reissued in 1985, again to no avail. According to John Rossall, only he, Shephard and Leonard featured on the single, together with Brian Jones on sax.

Another single appeared in 1982, a Shephard and Springate song called Heartbeat To Heartache. They were joined by Tony Leonard on drums and it’s a decent pop song, the sort of thing which was hitting the charts quite regularly in the early 80s, but a far cry from the Glitter Band in their prime. Sadly this also sank without a trace. Finally a rather sub-par and generic sounding power ballad, Nothing At All, appeared in 1986 and again did nothing.

Some of the band continued to back Gary Glitter on live dates but he unceremoniously sacked them for cheaper musicians at the end of the 1980s – a fact broadcasters really should bear in mind when trying to whitewash the band from music history.

Phipps toured with a variety of 80s bands including XTC and Eurythmics before teaming up with Shephard again in the 90s. They guested on Denim’s glam rock themed 1992 album, Back In Denim with Shephard and his star guitar featuring in the video for Middle Of The Road. He and Phipps also featured in the Identity Parade round in the first episode of Never Mind The Buzzcocks in 1996. Shephard got picked out; Phipps did not.

John Springate went into record production in the 90s, becoming involved in the Hi-Energy dance scene and recording Nicki French’s hit cover of Total Eclipse Of The Heart. In 2000 he teamed up once again with Shephard to pen the UK’s Eurovision entry, Don’t Play That Song Again, performed by French. At the time it was the worst performing UK Eurovision entry, which Shephard said was a badge of honour.

They’ll now never get together again as sadly Gerry Shephard died of cancer aged just 51 in 2003. Springate and Phipps tour as one incarnation of The Glitter Band. Rossall also still tours regularly, and his band included Harvey Ellison, until he passed away in February 2017. Tony Leonard has now retired from the music business.

The Glitter Band were poppy enough to catch the ear of my 10-year-old self, but distinctive and different enough also to hold my attention over the years. I was never embarrassed that I’d been a fan of theirs when I was so young, which wasn’t the case with a lot of my childhood music idols. They were great musicians and writers who caught the mid 70s zeitgeist. It’s ironic that the advent of punk washed them away, as Angel Face must have influenced most of the punks who replaced them in the charts later in the decade.

 

“For me the Glitter band were more influential than the Beatles.”
Mark E. Smith

 

Gerry Shephard (1951-2003)

Harvey Ellison (1951-2017)

 

If I’ve whetted your appetite for this most underrated and somewhat forgotten 70s band, you can buy a Box Set containing their four albums. There are a few lowlights but it will allow you to hear the versatility of the band and that utterly distinctive “hey!” sound which made them famous.

The Glitter Band official website

The Glitter Band Official Facebook Group

John Rossall facebook

The Official John Springate Website

The Original Jukebox Heroes (Pete Phipps, drums)

Never Too Young To Rock (1975 movie) Part 1 on YouTube

The Glitter Band biography (iTunes)

Joyce Gibson is a lifelong music fan, inherited from her dad and now passed on to her niece. She’s been buying records for over 40 years and going to gigs since the 70s (just!) and enjoys writing about music when working full-time doesn’t get in the way. Joyce tweets @northseacrashes and co-hosts @PsychoSundae featuring the best psych and garage tunes chosen by followers. However, she listens to many genres of music as her Toppermost articles attest.

Read Joyce’s other posts on Cocteau Twins, Shangri-Las, Kate Bush

TopperPost #673

3 Comments

  1. David Lewis
    Nov 6, 2017

    Whew… I had rather forgotten the Glitter band, except with He who shall not be named… They were a terrific combo, and it’s a shame they couldn’t really get past glitter… but of course, punk aimed at disco, but killed glam, at least for a while.

  2. Patrick Mckean
    Nov 6, 2017

    Very good Joyce thank you. I read in one of glitter’s bios, he really did only regard them as employees… the piss tho? i heard it was Mr Seago.

  3. Neil Waite
    Nov 6, 2017

    Thank you Joyce. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I too had forgotten just how good they were. The Glitter Band sound was what attracted me to them back in the day. That two drum sound was thrilling. In the late 80s while I was studying at Portsmouth Polytechnic I went to see Gary Glitter play at the Guildhall. The Glitter Band were supporting and it has to be said, that night, they should have been headlining. They blew him off the stage. They were brilliant!

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